Hot or Not?: XV – “Popular Culture”

June 18, 2012 1 comment

Greetings, mostlyjunkfoodies, and welcome back to the article that reviews the buzzing mixtape of the week. I’m LoneXionc, the guy that offers kneejerk reactions to lovingly crafted music because I’m an asshole, and this week I’ll be inadequately assessing XV’s latest tape Popular Culture.

Since guaranteeing that he would release his debut album in 2011, XV has… not done that. Instead, he’s still riding the pine on Warner Bros. But you can’t keep a good Squarian down for long. After his last mixtape, the underappreciated Zero Heroes, dropped, XV kind of fell off the radar. He was in the mix for the 2012 XXL Freshman list, but that didn’t come to fruition (although French Montana rocked that brown bear hoodie). But things are looking up for Wichita’s finest; in about a week he’s set to drop an EP, and his debut The Kid With the Green Backpack is supposed to see the light of day this summer. Given history, though, I wouldn’t count on it.

First, a disclaimer:

The opinions of this writer are his own, and do not reflect the opinions of other MJF writers or staff. This article is written as the author is listening to the tape for the first time, and should not dissuade you from downloading it. In fact, here’s the link again. Treat yoself.

So without further ado (and not bothering to listen to the skits), here we go!

The Tracks

Andy Warhol (feat. Slim the Mobster) – I feel like I’m listening to the theme song to Growing Pains as it starts, but damn does it pick up. “You are not a blogger just because you bought a Nikon” – :-( . Oh, a shot at Kreayshawn?! That’s that shit I do like! Overall, this is a dope way to start the mixtape. XV’s delivery lets you hear every line, and Slim’s pop-in hookwork is cool. Dude takes the “15 minutes of fame” concept and runs with it. 4/5

Breaking Bad (feat. Raja) – XV’s beat selection is immaculate. “They wonder how I Ether the net without connection” – HEY I’M A GEEK SO I GET THAT. The hook is kinda contrived but I’m not too mad at it. The ability to tell a story with complete clarity and still work in a hundredthousandtrillion punchlines is strange, but it comes out sounding fresh. I don’t like how the song ended, though; just faded out into a mini-interlude, which makes my id3-oriented brain want to change the end time. Ah well. 3.5/5

Be There, Be Square – The simple Xaphoon-produced beat for this track is kinda strange coming off the two previous songs. And now Vizzy’s starting to rehash material 2 songs in. That’s problematic. Yeah, I’m not feeling this song at all. The beat is alright, but definitely doesn’t mask the flaws in the raps, namely the predictability. 2/5

Her Favorite Song (feat. Raja) – Not to be confused with “Her Theme Song”, my favorite cut from A Sucker for Pumps. The beat’s laid back as a mother, and XV lets it do the talking for the most part, which is good. His personality often takes over from stellar beats, and it’s nice to know he can lay off and let it ride. Raja does his damn thing for the hook, too; definite singalong quality. I do wish Vizzy would stop trying to sing though; he just can’t. That’s why you have the dude on the track. Spit a half verse and then let the hook ride. Despite that, this is easily the most mainstream-friendly track yet, and probably the best song on the mixtape so far. 4.5/5

The Kick – In the interest of full disclosure, I went back and listened to that last song another two times before moving on; it makes the transition to this dark-ass song even weirder. The slow tempo lets the listener hear everything he’s spitting, which is a plus given that it’s another melancholy “I’ma show you all and make it” track. The individual moments of success (the similes and such) are greater than the track as a whole, and the Inception-themed hook does nothing for me. All in all, I don’t hate it, but I don’t have any desire to hear it again. 2.5/5

Go On Without Me – One downtempo track after another isn’t the best placement. I was ready to hate this, but I don’t. The second verse is powerful stuff. Vizzy’s anger at something (possibly his debut in limbo?) infects this track like humanity infects the world. It’s a dark track, but it manages to escape the formula set by the previous joints on this tape, and I appreciate that. 3/5

Wonkavator (feat. Emilio Rojas) – Uh… this song is weird as hell. I can’t tell if it’s a dance track, or swag rap, or an exercise in beat minimalism. The “hook” is… well, interesting. Emilio Rojas comes on and immediately takes the track over. I should switch the feature on this; it’s not XV’s song. He flows like Curren$y without the downers and bodies the track (not that hard to do). I feel like this song could have been much better with a more intricate beat, as it sort of drags along without much support. 2.5/5

Mary Kate & Ashley (feat. Freddy High & Sez Batters) – Oh, this must be the swag rap one. The Peruvian flute sample is cracking me up, as is the hook. Am I supposed to take this seriously? He’s quoting Full House, I can’t believe the braggadocio. I’ll give XV credit, though: he’s giving features to people I’ve never heard of and for the most part, they sound pretty dope. Like the previous song, this beat is trippy as fuck. If this is a parody of similar themed songs, it’s brilliant. Otherwise, it’s a “what did I just listen to” moment. 2.5/5

Jedi Night – It’s like XV just tapped into my inner nerd and made a song based on random Star Wars jokes. And I like it. The “Change Clothes” sample is a great touch. The beat is moody and warm without straining too hard, and the hook fits that adequately. Hooks are what Vizzy seems to struggle with the most, which is probably why his debut’s been shelved for so long; I’d be fine if he just let other people write them, the same way I’d prefer Big K.R.I.T. never write a hook again. 3.5/5

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (feat. ScHoolboy Q & B.o.B) – Well, so much for the no-name features. XV finally articulates his anger toward his record label. The warped and everything-but-chopped beat are mesmerizing. If I smoked weed, this would be a quality tune to bump. I know I’m in the minority, but I really don’t get ScHoolboy. I recognize his talent, yet his solo work does nothing for me. His voice carries him through features, which is like coasting to the finish line. Bobby Ray lends his poppy self to the mix and actually kind of steals the show. Yeah, he’s the “Airplanes” dude and he has a really pronounced lisp, but when he wants to he can outshine more “technical” emcees. Despite the quality features, this isn’t a showstopper by any means. It’s just a good song. Expectations kinda suck. 3.5/5

Hi, Life – The hook makes this song sound way more emo than it really is. Another “life’s a bitch” line, booooo. It’s hard to sort through all the pop culture references (as I’m sure was the intention), which makes it hard to digest anything other than the overall message, which is “see ya, I’m going big.” And that’s about all there is to the song. Repeat listens would make me go “ha!” at some references, but I just don’t care enough. 2.5/5

Zombieland Rule 32 (feat. Irv Da Phenom)“Enjoy the little things”: good advice for anyone, but something XV has kind of forgotten to do with this mixtape. It’s laughable that a song about enjoying life sounds like it could be played during a cinematic enactment of a superhero’s funeral. This song would benefit greatly from being 10 or 20 clicks faster, so it would actually sound like you’re having fun. I guess that’s what waiting on the sidelines does to you; just ask Young Eeyore. 2/5

One of One – Why, why, why would you close out a tape on such a downer? This is like the Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire of endings right here. I get it, you’re underappreciated and dejected, but you’ll succeed. Make me believe it by releasing less of this woe-is-me crap. Recycling hooks from past songs is also some bullshit. I’m not even through the song and I want to pretend I am so I can stop listening. Wait– who’s singing this interlude? “That’s the worst goodbye I’ve ever heard…” you’re goddamn right, random sound clip I don’t know the origin of. 1/5

Verdict

Wow, that ended on a down note. I was all with it until those last 3 joints, and they just bored me to death. I like XV, and I really liked Zero Heroes because it had a lot of variety. This is like Zero Heroes but nearly devoid of the fun, upbeat stuff. Still, the first half of the mixtape was pretty good, if not especially memorable. I hope XV channels more positive energy into his next project, because you can tell his discontent with his handling as a signed artist is affecting his music. And that sucks.

Popular Culture – 2.85/5 – Lukewarm

@LoneXionc
Lyrics via RapGenius